Silvia, Cauca, Colombia

Silvia is a town and municipality in the Cauca Department, Colombia, a Colombian municipality located in the department of Cauca. It is located on an inter-Andean valley (2620 meters above sea level) in the central mountain range of Colombia. Silvia’s population is estimated at 35,000 inhabitants. The main economic activities are traditional livestock farming, agriculture and tourism.

It is often visited as a weekend getaway by residents of Cali, which has a much hotter climate. There are many fine bakeries and inexpensive restaurants in town, most within half a kilometer of the large public square. In the last decade, the large trees that formerly grew on the square were removed due to damages their roots were causing, and the square was renovated to include more seating, and replanted with a greater variety of vegetation.

The area is populated by many people of Guambiano descent, who maintain their traditional ways of life in the area surrounding Silvia. Silvia is It is made up of six indigenous reservations: Ambaló, Guambía, Kisgo, Pitayó, Quichaya and Tumburao. The municipal seat is located between the Piendamó River and the Quebrada Manchay, at a distance of 59 kilometers from Popayán, the capital of the Department.

Silvia is located in the north-east of the Department of Cauca, southwest of Colombia, between 2º47’37 ” and 2º31’24 ” north latitude and between 76º10’40 ” and 76º31’05 ”Longitude west of the Greenwich meridian, on the western flank of the central range. The municipal seat is located between the Piendamó river and the Manchay stream on 02º36’50 “north and 76º22’58” to the west, at 2,600 meters of altitude. It is 59 km from Popayán. Its area is 662.4 km.

It is located on land allocated the 23 of October of 1562 to Francisco Belalcazar, son of the conqueror Sebastian de Belalcazar, and was preserved by his descendants until the 31 of July of 1581, when they sold it to José Antonio Concha. The town was founded three kilometers from where the municipal seat is currently located, in a place called Las Tapias, and Juan de Tuesta y Salazar built a military fort. In the days of Governor Antonio Nieto (1798), the definitive transfer took place to the place where it is today, around the parish temple. Then it had 400 inhabitants.

Silvia’s population was not always in the same place where it stands today; It has been found in at least three different places. The constant tradition tells that the first location of the town was the place called “Las Tapias”, more or less three kilometers from the current town where it was founded. This primitive town was destroyed by the fierce Paeces whose frequent invasions and depredations terrified the inhabitants of the city of Popayán. The second site it occupied was the place called “Buchitolo”, where today the Boyacá neighborhood is located. It is mentioned in that precise place where the straw church, the priest house, the square, etc. stood.

It is said that the origin of Silvia dates from the year 1562-1563, and that it was the place called “Las Tapias”, where it originally existed. And in the year 1,589, the transfer to the place called “Buchitolo” occurred, where it remained for about 200 years. In 1806 the definitive transfer of the population to the place it occupies today was carried out, in order to force the largest number of Indians to live in the town, for which the authorities built enough houses to house them. The place chosen for the transfer was the narrow valley formed by the Piendamó river and the Manchay stream, of appreciable length on the river bank.

In 1808, Lino Hurtado was elected as the first mayor of the town and around 1838 the indigenous name was changed to the current one, Silvia. Initially the town was called GUAMBÍA, from the year 1838 it was called Silvia. In the eighth book of baptisms from 1838 onwards, page 126, there is this annotation by the priest Manuel José Gálvez “From now on, the items with the name of the parish of Silvia will be settled, by decree of the Supreme Executive Power. Where he gives this name to the parish, the Guambía being extinguished ”. The previous note is between two items: the former is dated July 15, 1838, and the later is dated July 31 of the same year.

Apparently it was a derivation of the jungle, which in Latin is written silva. It is also said that those lands of Silvia are the same that were awarded to Don Francisco de Belalcázar on October 23, 1562. That is to say, that at that date the area was called Silvia. In the EL CAJRNERO file there is a file marked with No. 121 of October 1841 where it speaks of the Silvia ravine, which is the ravine known today as Manchay or del Molino, and this suggests the possibility that this ravine had such a name since ancient times. The lands that were part of the “Gran Chimán” farm, today known as: Santiago, La Clara, Agua Blanca, Chimán and Ambachico; They were formerly called “Lands of Silvia” and the river known as Piendamó, was called Silvia river, surely because it limited the “Lands of Silvia”. It is also explained as a derivation of Silva, who was surely an owner of those lands.

In 1969 the shield, the flag and the anthem were chosen by the municipal council.

Silvia is a traditional village located in the Cauca department just off the Pan-American Highway between Popayán and Cali. A simple and typical village, Silvia has a large church and a main plaza which comes to life on Tuesdays with its famous and authentic market of the Guambiano Indians. The village is also noted for its bakeries and economical restaurants.

The Tuesday market is the most important market of the Guambiano Indians that live in Silvia and its surroundings. The main square fills with traditional Colombian chivas that bring the outlying villagers and their produce to Silvia’s main plaza.

In the morning to Silvia when its bustling market is at its liveliest and provides the most authentic experience for the visitor. The market is by no means geared towards tourists and sells fruits and vegetables alongside hand-spun yarns. At the weekends, Silvia is a popular getaway destination for the residents of Cali that come to this small town to escape Cali’s heat.

The Municipality of Silvia is home to a great diversity of species, among them are: La Acacia, Arbol Loco, Ciprés, Copec, Guarango, Mano De Oso, Palo Moco, Roble, Jigua, Nogal, Aliso, Pepo, Sindayo, Canelo, Cedar, Copper, Cupe, Chaquiro, Majúa, Naranjuelo, Páramo Pine, Eucalyptus, Patula Pine, Wax Laurel, Arrayán, Lechero, Black Salvia, Pílele, Carrizo, Manzano and Chilco, among many others, whose uses range from combustion, protection and construction, even medicinal ones.

The territory stands out for the existence of Andean species such as: The Golden Eagle, The Tapir, The Spectacled Bear, The Puma, Tigrillo, La Guagua, The Big Cusumbo or Solino, The Little Cusumbo, The Deer, The Condor, The Rabbits, Torcazas and Hummingbirds, among other species.

Water Resources:
The Municipality of Silvia is a producer of water, it has a water wealth represented in five hydrographic sub-basins: Cofre river, Piendamó river, Ovejas river, Palo river, Pisno river. Lagoons such as Ñimbe, Piendamó, Cresta de Gallo, Las Juntas, Kizgó, Palacé, La Sangre, La Horqueta, Peñas Blancas, Abejorro, Los Cueros, La Marquesa and Michambe, most of them located in the moorlands of Delicias and Moras.

Social Environment:
According to DANE population projections, the Municipality of Silvia in 2015 had a population of 32,159, of which 4,289 live in urban areas and 27,870 in rural areas. 79.55% of the population corresponds to the Misak / Guambiana and Nasa / Páez ethnic groups, which are distributed in six indigenous reservations: Ambaló, Kizgó, Quichaya, Tumburao, Pitayó, Guambia and the town hall of La Gaitana; As for the mestizo and peasant population represented by 20.45%, it is located in the urban area, and in the peasant areas of Usenda and Santa Lucía.

Economic environment:
The economic activities carried out in the Municipality are mainly: agriculture and livestock with fish farming, dual-purpose livestock, and the intervention of crops of: vegetables, fruits, tubers, fique, coffee and flowers. Tourism is another important activity that contributes to the economy of the Municipality with a notable increase in some seasons of the year.

The Guambiano Indians
Approximately 20,000 Guambiano Indians still live in Colombia, most of them live within a short distance from Silvia. The name of the Guambiano Indians comes from a bag called a guambia, a traditional bag used by Guambiano women to carry around weaving supplies. Guambiano women are renowned for their weaving skills and their woven wares are a principal source of income for the community.

Guambianos still live a very traditional life, especially their traditional clothing. Men and women wear finely woven ruanas, a type of Colombian poncho. The females accessorise with chaquiras, necklaces and wristbands made out of small colourful beads.

The Guambianos are self-sufficient and grow all their produce on the local terraced hillsides. The market is a vital trading day for the community as commodities can be sold and traded for other commodities.

Immerse yourself in the real world of the Guambiano Indians that still live their traditional life in the Colombian South. The day trip to Silvia takes in some of Colombia’s most beautiful landscapes with deep green valleys, rivers and Andean lakes.

Arrived in the morning to ensure we reach the market when it at its liveliest and most colourful. We spend the first few hours in Silvia to give you the chance to truly experience the only authentic indigenous market in Colombia. In the afternoon your tour visits Guambia, another typical village of the Guambiano Indians where we can visit the cemetery and the community centre.

Venture out into the hillsides surrounding the town and you’ll find yourself immersed in a land rich in Guambiano culture but devoid of crowds.

The plaza is a pleasant open space with tall trees and plenty of spots to sit and relax. A church sits on one side while there are some shops, restaurants, and the Silvia town hall surrounding the other sides.

The church
There were lots of Guambianos in the plaza sitting and having a chat. Marisol asked to have a picture with one of them. Typically, they’re not too keen on photos but if you ask nicely they might allow you to take one.

Bethlehem Hill
A 10 minute walk from the plaza on the road to the left of the church is a small hill with another church on top. This is Bethlehem Hill (La Colina de Belén). From there, you can get breathtaking 360 degree views of the town and countryside with just about every shade of green imaginable.

Lake El Chimán
Downhill from the town is a small river with a path next to it. If you follow the path to the right there’s a bridge with a road that leads to a small lake, Lake El Chimán (Lago El Chimán). Locals were fishing and walking around the lake, some with horses. It wasn’t clean but the backdrop was gorgeous.